Biodiversity and Ecosystems Management

In the area of protection of biodiversity and ecosystems several Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) have been adopted by the international community in the last decades. 
The major MEAs on the protection of biodiversity that interest the Pacific region and involve direct support of SPREP to the countries are:



Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, 1971 (Ramsar)  
The Convention
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) -- called the "Ramsar Convention" -- is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the "wise use", or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories (be they freshwater or costal ecosystems).
Unlike the other global environmental conventions, Ramsar is not affiliated with the United Nations system of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, but it works very closely with the other MEAs and is a full partner among the "biodiversity-related cluster" of treaties and agreements.

The Convention's mission is "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world".
Under the "three pillars" of the Convention, the Parties have committed themselves to:
  • Work towards the wise use of all their wetlands through national land-use planning, appropriate policies and legislation, management actions, and public education;
  • Designate suitable wetlands for the List of Wetlands of International Importance("Ramsar List") and ensure their effective management; 
  • Cooperate internationally concerning transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems, shared species, and development projects that may affect wetlands.

Key resources: 
Upcoming Ramsar meetings
For the Pacific islands, the Ramsar Convention considers everything from seagrass, brackish lagoons, coral communities to intertidal mangrove and saltmarsh communities, as well as freshwater swamps and lakes as wetlands. 
There are currently 6 Pacific Island Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention (Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa). Tonga and Vanuatu are in the process of joining.To date 8 wetlands of the region are included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.

In order to implement the Convention the Pacific parties to the convention have adopted the
Regional Wetlands Action Plan for the Pacific Islands 2011 - 2013 (ENG)
Plan d’action régional océanien pour les zones humides 2011–2013 (French)
In relation to this, is important to note that all SPREP PICs members, and not only Pacific Ramsar Parties, have adopted the regional wetlands action  plan.

National Wetlands Inventory

In order to discuss and share experiences on issues, priorities and challenges currently faced by the Ramsar Contracting Parties in Oceania concerning the conservation of their  wetlands, SPREP and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat co-organized and convened the 5th Oceania Regional Meeting for Ramsar COP11.
The 11th Meeting of the Conference of the contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar COP11), was convened from 6th-13th July 2012 in Bucharest, Romania. SPREP has participated providing assistance to the Oceania Ramsar Contracting Parties that attended the COP (Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau, and Samoa). More info:here.

The 12th Meeting of the Conference of the contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar COP11), will be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 1-9 June 2015. For more information on COP12, please visit here:

For more information on the Ramsar Convention please contact the Oceania Ramsar Officer Mr. Vainuupo Jungblut at

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972 (WHC)

The Convention
The World Heritage Convention aims to protect cultural heritage (monuments, groups of buildings, sites) and natural heritage (natural features, geological and physiographical formations and natural sites) for future generations.
The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.

The Convention sets out the duties of States Parties in identifying potential sites and their role in protecting and preserving them. By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve not only the World Heritage sites situated on its territory, but also to protect its national heritage. The States Parties are encouraged to integrate the protection of the cultural and natural heritage into regional planning programmes, set up staff and services at their sites, undertake scientific and technical conservation research and adopt measures which give this heritage a function in the day-to-day life of the community

The Pacific

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, 1979 (CMS)

The convention
The CMS, or Bonn Convention, is an environmental treaty concluded under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, that aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. In this context, CMS provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. It operates as an umbrella agreement that encourages ranges States to conclude regional multilateral agreements between the countries interested by the migration of species. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range. The development of models tailored according to the conservation needs throughout the migratory range is a unique characteristic to CMS.

The Parties have established different mechanisms through the CMS for the conservation and management of migratory species:
a)    Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention. CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
b)    Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention. Co-operation can be obtained throughagreements between the parties. This may range from legally binding treaties (called Agreements) to less formal instruments, such as Memoranda of Understanding, and can be adapted to the requirements of particular regions.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in the Pacific
There are 4 Parties to the Convention in the Pacific Region: Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau and Samoa.

Moreover there are three MoUs, signed under the CMS (also by countries non-parties to the Convention), which are of particular relevance to SPREP member countries for the protection of the major migratory species in the Pacific: 
  • Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Island Region. More info about the Pacific Cetaceans can be found here, and the legal Instrument can be found: here.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range (Dugong MoU). More info: here.
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks. More info:here.  
In order to comply with these MoUs several Action Plans have been adopted:

More over in 2005 a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) was signed by SPREP and CMS Secretariat in acknowledging inter alia that both organizations pursue common goals in the conservation of ecosystems and the protection of migrating species, which can only be successfully met by enhanced and concerted actions on different levels and between all sectors.

For more information on the CMS Convention please contact the CMS Pacific Officer: Ms. Penina Solomona at:

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1973 (CITES)

The Convention

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments enterd into force in 1975. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system. Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.

CITES in the Pacific
There are six parties to the Convention in behalf of the Pacific Countries. Look: here

Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 (CBD)

The Convention
The Convention on Biological Diversity is one of the three so-called Rio conventions as it was opened for signature in 1992 at the “Earth Summit”. This Convention is the first attempt by the international community to address biological diversity as a whole in a global legal instrument. It is based on a broad ecosystem approach rather than the sectoral approach (focusing on specific species, ecosystems, or sites) that is characteristic of the previous  international conservation agreements. 

Biological diversity (biodiversity) is defined as: 
the variability among living organisms from all sources, occurring at three levels: diversity within species (genetic diversity), diversity between species, and diversity of ecosystems”.

Objectives and obligations
The CBD is an agreement that sets broad general obligations for its Parties.These broad CBD objectives are a consequence of the opposing interests of developing and developed countries (the so-called North-South divide) that characterized UNCED and its preparatory meetings.Throughout this process, many States were not willing to accept a CBD that focused only on biodiversity conservation, with the major costs of it faced by the developing countries. 

The result is a Convention that sets three main objectives:  

  • ƒ. conservation of biological diversity;
  • ƒ. sustainable use of its components; and
  • ƒ. fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
In order to pursue these objectives each contracting Party shall, in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities:
(a) Develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (integrate, as far as possible and as appropriate, the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies; identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation; monitor the components of biological diversity; identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; integrate consideration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making);
(b)   Establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity (in-situ conservation);
(c)   Adopt measures for the ex-situ conservation of components of biological diversity, preferably in the country of origin of such components (ex-situ conservation);
(d)   Cooperate with the other countries on Financial, scientific and technical issues.

At the 10th COP in 2010 (Nagoya) parties adopted a revised and updated Strategic Plan which includes 5 Strategic Goals and corresponding 20 Aichi Targets for the period 2011-2020. Look: Aichi Biodiversity Tragets.

Specific mechanisms have been created in behalf of the Convention in order to promote and facilitate its implementation: 
(a) National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs)
The Convention creates an obligation for the adoption of a national strategy which will reflect how the country intends to fulfill the objectives of the Convention. This represents the principal instruments for implementing the Convention at the national level. 
b) Report
In order to foster compliance each Contracting Party shall, at intervals to be determined by the Conference of the Parties, report on the measures which it has taken for the implementation of the Convention and the strategies. Reports shall be submitted to the Secretariat of the Convention every two years.
Since the five global biodiversity-related treaties (CBD, Convention on WetlandsConvention on International Trade in Endangered SpeciesConvention on Migratory Species, and World Heritage Convention) require respectively the Parties to submitt a report, their Secretariats are investigating whether there is scope for harmonizing reporting procedures by making use of common formats and datasets.
Clearing House Mechanism

Detailed information: CBD website.

CBD in the Pacific 
All Pacific Island countries have ratified the CBD. Furthermore almost all the PICs have completed or adopted the NBSAPs (with the exception of Nauru and Niue) (NBSAP's here) and have accomplished the Convention by submitting their National Reports (here for status of reporting and national reports).

At a Regional level plans and strategies have also been adopted by countries in order to armonize and mainstream their efforts for the conservation of biodiversity and to face specific regional problems:
Action Strategy for Nature Conservation
Guidelines for Invasives Species Management in the Pacific

In this context SPREP supports the participation of Pacific countries to this agreement by providing a focal point for the sharing and dissemination of information, assisting with regional preparatory meetings (COP meetings are held every 2 years) and facilitating the building of capacity of Pacific participants to enable them to effectively participate in negotiations with other parties and implement commitment and actions required under these conventions. 

Cartagena Protocol
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, adopted in 2000, aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.
The Biosafety Protocol makes clear that products from new technologies must be based on the precautionary
principle and allow developing nations to balance public health against economic benefits. Therefore, it establishes an advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure for ensuring that countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of such organisms into their territory.

The Protocol in the Pacific region: 
Among the Pacific Islands only Cook Islands, FSM, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are not yet parties to the Protocol. Table of Parties
National biosafety frameworks: here
National Reports on the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol: here.

Nagoya Protocol 
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity has been adopted in Nagoya in 2010.
The agreement aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding, thereby contributing to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

The aim of the Protocol is to create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources by:

  • Establishing more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources.
  • Helping to ensure benefit-sharing when genetic resources leave the contracting party providing the genetic resources

By helping to ensure benefit-sharing, the Nagoya Protocol creates incentives to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources, and therefore enhances the contribution of biodiversity to development and human well-being.

The Protocol is to date not in force, but progresses have been made in the process of its ratification. Under the guidance of the Global Environment Facility, financial and technical support has been offered to the countries in order to promote the ratification and implementation of the agreement.

Pacific Region: 
Among the PICs, FSM is the only country which has ratified the Protocol. As regional focal point, SPREP is working and will work in providing advisory and technical support to promote and encourage the ratification and implementation of this MEA in the region.

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, 2002 
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was adopted by the Thirty-First Session of the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on 3 November 2001.

The Treaty aims at:

  • recognizing the enormous contribution of farmers to the diversity of crops that feed the world;
  • establishing a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic materials;
  • ensuring that recipients share benefits they derive from the use of these genetic materials with the countries where they have been originated;

The main provision and mechanism of the treaty can be found: here

Pacific Region: 
To date five Pacific countries are part to the agreement: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Samoa. 

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